Onionhead (1958)

110 mins | Comedy-drama | October 1958

Director:

Norman Taurog

Writer:

Nelson Gidding

Producer:

Jules Schermer

Cinematographer:

Harold Rosson

Editor:

William Ziegler

Production Designer:

Leo Kuter

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

The film closes with the following written statement: "Our grateful appreciation to the United States Coast Guard...whose generous cooperation made this motion picture possible." DV announced in Nov 1956 that Warner Bros. had purchased the film rights to Onionhead , a novel by Weldon Hill that had yet to be published. The HR review noted that the film closely followed the original story's plot. As noted in reviews, Onionhead was a follow-up to No Time for Sergeants (see above), the extremely popular Warner Bros. film starring Andy Griffith as a hillbilly drafted into the air force. The production was suspended for one week in late Nov 1957 when Griffith contracted the Asiatic flu, according to studio press materials. Press notes add that many scenes were filmed on location at the Coast Guard station in Alameda, CA and aboard the U.S.S. Heather , which was stationed in Long Beach, CA. HR news items add the following actors to the cast: Mina Vaughn, Sal Sportelli, Paul Marianetti, Chuck Hicks, Frederic Ford, Alan Gifford, Fred Eisley , John Bontiz and Charlene James. Their appearance in the final film has not been ... More Less

The film closes with the following written statement: "Our grateful appreciation to the United States Coast Guard...whose generous cooperation made this motion picture possible." DV announced in Nov 1956 that Warner Bros. had purchased the film rights to Onionhead , a novel by Weldon Hill that had yet to be published. The HR review noted that the film closely followed the original story's plot. As noted in reviews, Onionhead was a follow-up to No Time for Sergeants (see above), the extremely popular Warner Bros. film starring Andy Griffith as a hillbilly drafted into the air force. The production was suspended for one week in late Nov 1957 when Griffith contracted the Asiatic flu, according to studio press materials. Press notes add that many scenes were filmed on location at the Coast Guard station in Alameda, CA and aboard the U.S.S. Heather , which was stationed in Long Beach, CA. HR news items add the following actors to the cast: Mina Vaughn, Sal Sportelli, Paul Marianetti, Chuck Hicks, Frederic Ford, Alan Gifford, Fred Eisley , John Bontiz and Charlene James. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Sep 1958.
---
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1956.
---
Daily Variety
24 Sep 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Sep 58
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 1957
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1957
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1957
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1957
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 58
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Sep 58
p. 992.
New York Times
2 Oct 58
p. 44.
Variety
24 Sep 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Mus supv
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Tech adv
Scr supv
Loc mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Onionhead by Weldon Hill (New York, ca. 1957).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1958
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 28 September 1958
Los Angles opening: 15 October 1958
Production Date:
late September--late November 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 October 1958
Copyright Number:
LP15075
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
110
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18771
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1941 at an Oklahoma college, Alvin Woods grows frustrated as yet another girl, this time his girl friend Josephine Hill, seems to prefer him as a friend rather than as a suitor. While serving as a bartender at Jo’s sorority party, Al spots another boy making advances to Jo, and when he starts a fight with the boy, he is fired. Jo then refuses to leave with Al, prompting him to accuse her of dating him only to shock her rich friends. Jo angrily denounces him, but is secretly despondent to see him leave. Al decides to quit college in favor of joining the armed forces, and visits his father Windy, a barber in their small Oklahoma hometown. The provincial Windy reveres his only son and regrets that the only advice he has to offer Al is about maintaining his hair. At the draft office, Al flips a coin to choose between the Marines and the Coast Guard, following it as it rolls into the Coast Guard office. Soon, he is at boot camp in Louisiana, along with Charlie Berger and Harry O’Neal, another barber. Although the three at first quarrel, they are soon fast friends, and when Al picks a fight with a bossy recruit, Charlie and Harry defend him. As a result, they are all assigned to a Boston “buoy tender,” the U.S.S. Periwinkle , which never sees battle. Before boarding, they visit a local bar, where Al wins the attention of pretty Stella. Although Stella refuses to invite Al in at the ... +


In 1941 at an Oklahoma college, Alvin Woods grows frustrated as yet another girl, this time his girl friend Josephine Hill, seems to prefer him as a friend rather than as a suitor. While serving as a bartender at Jo’s sorority party, Al spots another boy making advances to Jo, and when he starts a fight with the boy, he is fired. Jo then refuses to leave with Al, prompting him to accuse her of dating him only to shock her rich friends. Jo angrily denounces him, but is secretly despondent to see him leave. Al decides to quit college in favor of joining the armed forces, and visits his father Windy, a barber in their small Oklahoma hometown. The provincial Windy reveres his only son and regrets that the only advice he has to offer Al is about maintaining his hair. At the draft office, Al flips a coin to choose between the Marines and the Coast Guard, following it as it rolls into the Coast Guard office. Soon, he is at boot camp in Louisiana, along with Charlie Berger and Harry O’Neal, another barber. Although the three at first quarrel, they are soon fast friends, and when Al picks a fight with a bossy recruit, Charlie and Harry defend him. As a result, they are all assigned to a Boston “buoy tender,” the U.S.S. Periwinkle , which never sees battle. Before boarding, they visit a local bar, where Al wins the attention of pretty Stella. Although Stella refuses to invite Al in at the end of the night, she agrees to meet him again. When Al boards the Periwinkle , he receives a thorough chastisement from boorish Ens. Dennis Higgins, then discovers that his new superior officer, crusty head cook “Red” Wildoe, resents Al’s quick, unearned advancement to cook and so refuses to bunk with him. The next morning, Wildoe throws Al out of the mess, but then becomes so drunk that he misses lunch, forcing Al to cover for him. After the surly mess cooks, Gutsell and Poznicki, abandon him, Al is forced to improvise a meal for the ship, but later strong-arms them into returning to work. Despite Al’s inexperience, he prepares a delicious meal, forcing Wildoe to accept him in the mess. Soon after, Higgins orders Wildoe, Al and their superior, Chief Miller, to correct the deficit in the mess budget, suggesting that they cut rations, and clandestinely offers Wildoe and Al promotions after Miller retires. During liberty that night, Al dances with the flirtatious Stella. Although she will not allow him to take her home, she agrees to go to a hotel with him that weekend. Al borrows a month’s pay to rent a room, but when he picks up Stella, she refuses to go with him, pretending that she did not understand his earlier request. Furious with her teasing, Al calls Stella cheap, then proceeds to get drunk. Wildoe, equally intoxicated, joins him at the bar, and although the two have entirely incongruent conversations with each other, that night Wildoe finally allows Al to sleep in the same room. In the morning, the captain announces that Pearl Harbor has been attacked, signaling the start of the war. Al, frustrated that Higgins has been promoted to Executive Officer, distracts himself by responding to a postcard Jo has sent him. Later, Wildoe reveals that he has been seeing Stella and plans to marry her, despite Al’s warning that if they ship out to battle, he will have to leave Stella to her own devices for months at a time. Wildoe and Stella marry at the local bar, and when some Navy men interrupt the celebration, Al leads the seamen in beating them up. The group is arrested, but kindly Ens. Fineberg ignores the charges and sends Wildoe back to his honeymoon. Soon after, Wildoe is reassigned to the U.S.S. Algonquin and asks Al to keep an eye on Stella. Al becomes head cook, but is soon hated by the men after Higgins procures sub-par food stores, such as powdered eggs. One night at the bar, Al sees Stella flirting and drags her home, where he tries, but fails, to resist her seduction. In addition to his guilt, he is soon plagued by Harry, who insists that Al is going bald and devises a “cure” by which he shaves Al’s head and applies a poultice of onion juice and alcohol, earning him the nickname “Onionhead.” Higgins, planning a party for the captain, stores up high-quality food, from which Al surreptitiously steals. After Higgins catches Quatermaster Osborne with a pound of butter Al has given him, Al confesses to stealing it, but Higgins insists on punishing Osborne. Fed up, Al refuses to cook for the party unless Higgins backs off and allows Osborne to transfer to California, to be close to his family. The party is a success, but when Al discovers that Higgins’ ledger reports the officers are only paying $9.50 for food rather than the actual cost of $21, he assumes that all the officers are in cahoots to receive the best food, at the expense of the enlisted men. After securing a copy of the ledger, Al writes a complaint letter to the district office, despite Miller’s warning that he should confront the captain before going behind his back. The next day, Al learns that his father has died, and rushes home, where he finds Jo waiting for him. Al is wracked with guilt about failing to write to Windy, but Jo’s loving ministrations soothe him, and soon they are in love. Al returns to Boston, and at the bar, Wildoe, who has been visiting, asks him to walk Stella home. There, she tries to seduce him again, and when he calls her a tramp, she reveals that she is a nymphomaniac who has hoped to heal her sickness by finding love with him. Saddened by Stella’s plight, Al is prompted to call Jo and propose, and to his joy, she agrees and makes plans to come to Boston. That night, however, the Periwinkle is called into duty to rescue the Algonquin , which has been sunk by a German U-boat. When the German submarine shoots the Periwinkle , it lists enough for Al to aim the archaic gun, allowing him to eliminate enough of the German gunnery crew for the captain to ram the U-boat and sink it. Although it is a decisive victory, Al feels responsible for the deaths of so many men. He visits the captain, who immediately deduces Al’s concern and reassures him that he bears all the accountability. Al then asks how much the officers pay for food and the captain responds, “Twenty-one dollars,” Al realizes that the officers have been paying fairly but Higgins has been pocketing part of their fees. Soon after, the district officers show up to conduct a court of inquiry, and Al finally realizes that, for the good of the whole crew, he must shelter Higgins and the captain from blame. He consequently lies that he has no proof of his allegations of wrongdoing, but slips the ledger to the captain. Al is then stripped of his rank and reassigned to Greenland. Later, the captain court-martials Higgins and offers to explain the situation to the district office, but Al, eager to do the right thing, bravely accepts his punishment. Proud of Al, the captain allows him five days’ leave to find Jo, who has been waiting in Boston for him. For four days, he is unable to locate her, but when she finally enters the bar in which Al is drinking, he is able to claim his bride before heading off to Greenland. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.